Social Spotlight

What Does Facebook Graph Search Mean for Brands?

On Tuesday, Facebook announced a new feature to their billion-plus users — Graph Search. After heralding this exciting new announcement (video below) many were left wondering what Facebook Graph Search is beyond an enhanced search feature and what it means for the social network with an online population that could qualify it as the third largest country. 

Let’s take a quick look at what Graph Search is, what it means, and why you should care.

How Facebook Graph Search Works

It’s no secret that search on Facebook has been limited. Outside of your searchable circle of friends and relevant brand pages, the results it yields can be described as questionably relevant at best and spammy at their worst. Though still in beta, Facebook Graph Search promises to deliver an answer to your search query based on the insights and behaviors of your friends, also commonly referred to as your “social graph.”

In theory, Graph Search will allow you to quickly poll your friends in Chicago (I have many) before your next trip on who has the best pizza (a contentious topic to locals if ever there was one). Or maybe as you approach the birth of a child you want to do a quick scan of your friends’ recent baby photos. You could also call up all of the photos you’ve liked over time or even use it to discover people nearby that you should know with similar interests.

Regardless of your criteria, the end game should be more relevant and personal search results as curated by your social graph. In the beginning, Graph Search will only include signals for people, photos, places, and pages for businesses. Facebook also notes that results will be displayed in order of relevancy and ranked using, among other criteria, their own Edgerank algorithm, which factors in closeness, recency, and engagement.

What It Means

facebook graph searchAnyone who speaks on the topic of social media is often asked the challenging question – what’s next? My go-to answer of late has been to watch for the convergence of search and social media. I began giving this answer a year and a half ago when Google rolled out their Google+ network. This, when combined with their +1 button and their own reworked search algorithm this past year, makes it clear that our online searches are becoming more socially influenced.

When the dominant search giant made their social move it was really only a matter of time before the dominant social giant made their own search play. Graph Search appears to be the opening shot in this next battle of an ongoing war between these two online Goliaths.

Should Businesses Care About Graph Search?

Without a doubt, the biggest online marketing platforms are Google and Facebook. Over time Google has created a valuable ecosystem based on helping us find what we need and allowing marketers to weave their brands into this tapestry. On the other hand, Facebook has emerged as the definitive congregating space for who we want to connect with — our friends, family, and acquaintances. While the advertising and marketing tools haven’t been as intuitive or effective as Google’s pay-per-click system, Facebook has built a more personal space for us to interact and engage organically.

These two Goliaths play a huge role in defining our digital marketing landscape in terms of resources such as where we allocate our time, talents, and treasure. Significant shifts by either party with the introduction of new platforms like Google+ and new features like Graph Search could bring about changes that affect marketers of all shapes and sizes.

What seems more likely is a moderate shift as Facebook enhances their own search capabilities just as Google enhanced their own social layer through Google+. With the wagons circled, only time will tell who will come out on top. In the meantime, marketers can expect to continue to commit significant resources to both of these online Goliaths.

That’s my two cents. This is a big new feature! What do you think of it? Worth all of the hype? Over-rated? Holding judgement until you can play with it a bit (not a bad answer at all). I’d love your thoughts in the comments below.

FYI – You can sign up to be try the beta here.